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University of Helsinki


Project Specs



Life-cycle estimate:

4-5 years

Project Name











The first step was to review design proposals and scope the works against the SKA requirements.

Once the initial review was complete, we disseminated initial scoping and targeting of SKA measures to the team through a design team meeting where specification and evidential requirements for meeting criteria were communicated. This early meeting also provided room for exploration of additional measures required to safeguard a Silver rating, as well as opportunities to “design out waste” through design, reuse and site practices.

To facilitate engagement with all project team members in designing out waste, a google doc was circulated for completing the exercise. Some great examples of waste reduction through design were targeting reuse of over half of the ductwork and related insulation from strip-out, and giving back removed ceiling tiles to the landlord for reuse as spares elsewhere in the building.

The questions the project sought to answer:

  • What is the current performance of the physical space against good practice? 
  • Who are the users and what does their good performance look like?
  • What space features should be improved to allow teachers and students to perform well/to their highest ability?


Following a detailed analysis of both university KPIs and user activities most impactful for high productivity in learning and teaching practices, we produced a design brief with the solution. A concept design and details were developed to meet the design brief using the User Profiles and working around the existing building’s, local culture, climatic, and regulation parameters.

The initial aim of the project was to review, benchmark and propose improvements to the interior design of classrooms, using one specific lecture room as testing ground. We measured the impact spaces have on both students and teachers and how everybody’s productivity and wellbeing can be improved as a result through a space’s design. We used our methodology called ‘a better place’ which evaluates and benchmarks a space’s impact on comfort and wellbeing. The methodology is developed by Grigoriou Interiors and consists of four interconnecting parts: people, space, insights, and value.

We used our methodology of creating User Profiles to understand pain points and open possibilities for new ways of teaching and learning. We started with 4 profiles: two reflecting different student users and two reflecting different professor and teacher types. The proposed design took on-board detailed characteristics, drivers, needs and overall psychology of the users to inform the design approach and details.

We undertook high-level user journey activities that brought to light various areas that could be improved to enhance the user experience of both students and teachers. These helped clarify the experience for anyone involved in a student’s daily life on campus and inform professors and teachers on ways to complement the students’ experience.



The environmental impact of all products and materials were selected in line with the SKArating benchmarks for the SKA for Higher Education scheme. We considered initially how much of the space’s elements could be retained and re-used, then we looked at local adaptation, maximize passive design for lighting, thermal comfort and air quality, and energy efficiency within the project’s remit.

Material and products were sourced with the highest circularity and lowest embodied carbon while supporting the project’s aesthetics simultaneously.

The full life cycle journey of products was reviewed to ensure that they were fit for purpose in such high use and impact spaces and would also withstand the harsh Finish climate which also impacts interiors.


The project’s key aims were to identify and propose a design which held occupant comfort and wellbeing at its centre. Without ensuring occupant comfort, high performance in the activities taking place in the spaces can’t be achieved or sustained for any time, if the design is not intentionally created to do so. By creating the occupant User Profiles, we are able to support more intentionally and strategically comfort and wellbeing.

The below User Profiles were created for the project:

Balancing stimulation and concentration: we intentionally specified light task chairs with moveable and rotating bases to enable students to release pent-up energy while seated for long periods of time. Being able to sit for longer periods of time and have an output for high energy levels and high stimulation, allows higher concentration and active listening.

Enabling space adaptability: one of the key user activities identified as needed by professors and teachers, was the ability to swiftly adapt the room layouts between or within classes and ensure this can be done safely with one or two members of staff. The need to adapt rooms was also linked to the proximity teachers have with students, where it was shown that longer distances corelated with lower engagement in class. Enabling teachers to walk around and connect with students better supported higher engagement, happiness and satisfaction from attending class.

We measured the impact spaces had as existing on both students and teachers and how everybody’s productivity and wellbeing could be improved as a result of our interventions through the space’s design. We used our methodology called ‘a better place’ which evaluates and benchmarks a space’s impact on comfort and wellbeing.

Improved lighting and air quality controllability and tested various user supports for usability. Many times classroom users are not familiar with these spaces, so controllability needs to cover needs of familiar and novice users of the space.


The university’s targets and philosophy were in focus throughout the project and we ensured that the space design and operational objectives were delivering on the university goals.

Identifying what is of ‘value’ and measuring that value as a mark of success for both the space’s design and the university’s service offering, was part of the project. We established what is ‘good performance’ and linked it to spatial design which now enables decision makers to take informed and coordinated approaches.

Throughout the process, we were able to identify cross-departmental issues, for example between IT and security or between pedagogy approaches and the estates team’s understanding, which impeded the most effective budgeting, operational, and overall coordinated student service. These insights provided high value returns from the project to various decision-makers and divisions.

Students and teachers using the space for presentation, group work activities and teacher engagement and group support.

Two very different look and feels in one space through adjusting light and layout details. This adaptability and user control increases the productivity outputs of the space and increases its utility and booking schedule.